Taste of Korea: Autumn foods foreigners should try in ROK

Taste of Korea: Autumn foods foreigners should try in ROK

Korea Tourism Organization

For each of Korea’s four distinct seasons, a different set of foods takes center stage in Korea’s culinary scene. Autumn marks the season of three of the nation’s most popular kinds of seafood: blue crabs, jumbo shrimp (prawns), and gizzard shad. Plump blue crabs are cooked in savory soup or steamed, while gizzard shads are enjoyed either raw as sashimi or grilled. Succulent and fleshy prawns are also great eaten raw or grilled, and the most common method for eating prawns in Korea is to peel them and dip them in a vinegar and red chili-pepper sauce.

On land, the best fall seasonal foods include flavorful and nutritious pine mushrooms and sweet persimmon. Pine mushrooms come in stewed, grilled or steamed dishes. They are great with beef or abalone. Persimmons are particularly sweet in the fall and are widely enjoyed as a dessert item. The dried version, called gotgam, is dried under the autumn sun and in the wind; it has a different texture from the fresh, undried version.

Fall foods are best in terms of taste and nutritional value when they are eaten in season. Enjoy some of these nutritious fall foods as the cooler weather sets in.

Blue crab (꽃게): Delicious, nutritious, and reasonably priced

Blue crabs are in season in spring and autumn. The abundant, creamy roe of the pre-spawning female crabs are best enjoyed in the spring, while the flaky, plump meat of the male crabs is a delicacy best enjoyed in autumn. Crabs are prepared in a variety of ways and can be made into spicy crab soup with vegetables and other seafood, or it can also be steamed, shelled, and eaten plain. Another delicacy is gejang, or raw crab marinated in soy sauce or red chili-pepper paste sauce. Prepared in any form, freshly-caught crabs are a true seafood lover’s delight.

Not only are blue crabs tasty, but they are also packed with nutrients. The crab’s shell contains calcium and chitin and the meat has an abundance of essential amino acids and vitamins. In Korea, blue crabs are known to be effective in the prevention of geriatric diseases and aid in alcohol detoxification.

Jumbo Prawns (대하): A feast for the eyes & palate

Jumbo prawns are a mouthwatering fall specialty to even those who don’t generally eat seafood. Those caught at sea are not easy to find outside local fishing areas, as these short-tempered crustaceans die quickly after they’re caught. Compared to farmed prawns, jumbo prawns caught at sea have longer antennas, thicker shells, and chewier meat.

You can eat them boiled, steamed, or fried, but for a fuller flavor, heat a large pot, sprinkle it with coarse sea salt, and cook the live prawns for about 10 minutes until they turn crimson. Prawns are savory and do not taste “fishy,” so they can be eaten as is without any sauce. If you prefer more seasoning, try dipping the prawns in a mixture of red chili-pepper paste and vinegar. Instead of throwing away the left-over shrimp heads, re-cook them for an extra crispy and delicious treat.

Top producers of sea-caught blue crabs and jumbo prawns

In the fall, blue crabs and jumbo prawns are caught in large quantities in the west coast. A large number of local and international tourists head to the coasts of Chungcheongnam-do to enjoy freshly-caught blue crabs and jumbo prawns.☞ Anmyeondo Island, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
Sinjindo Island, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
☞ Daecheonhang Port & Daecheon Beach, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do
Namdanghang Port, Hongseong-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
Anmyeondo Beach Shrimp Festival
Taean Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Boryeong Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Hongseong Culture & Tourism (Korean)

Gizzard Shad (전어): Soft flesh and bold flavors

In the fall, gizzard shads store up plenty of nutrients for the long, cold winter; meaning they are packed with healthy oils and plenty of flavor. The best months to eat these delicious fish are between late September and mid November. Larger gizzard shads are higher in fat, so make sure to pick a fish over 15cm to enjoy the fish’s true taste.

There are many ways to cook and eat gizzard shads. Slices of raw gizzard shads taste best when wrapped in lettuce and seasoned with chili and garlic sauce. The spicy taste of a seasoned gizzard shad platter mixed with various vegetables and condiments is also a local favorite. However, the best way to cook gizzard shad is to take a whole fish, score it lightly, salt it, and put it on the grill. There’s no need to debone it, so it is ready to be eaten as soon as it is done.

Top producers of sea-caught gizzard shad
Fall gizzard shads are caught in large quantities off the west coast and southern coasts. In the fall, gizzard shads are more popular than blue crabs and prawns due to their widely enjoyed flavors. The catch in 2013 has also been bountiful, so local and international tourists have been traveling in crowds to fish markets and beaches in areas where the fish is caught.

Muchangpo Beach, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do
Yulpo Beach, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do
☞ Yeosu Specialty Seafood Market & Yeosu Passenger Terminal, Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do
Hongwon Port, Seocheon-gun, Chungcheongnam-do
Incheon Soraepogu Festival
Hongwon Port Gizzard Shad & Crab Festival
Incheon Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Boryeong Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Boseong Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Yeosu Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Seocheon Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Pine mushrooms (송이버섯): Small in size but big in flavor

Pine mushrooms are considered the best among the hundreds of types of edible mushrooms in Korea. They only thrive on live pine trees and are harvested in autumn. Pine mushrooms are referred to as diamonds in the forest for their high nutritional value and efficacy. The mushroom is great for preventing geriatric diseases and protecting the stomach. More than anything, it is known for its cancer prevention qualities.

Pine mushrooms are expensive as they cannot be grown commercially, but must be collected in their natural environment. Despite the high price tag, it is in great demand thanks to its delicate flavor and nutritional value. The mushroom can be sliced and grilled over a light fire, but it is more commonly cooked with other ingredients. For example, it can be cooked with other vegetables in a soup, or it can be added to rice. When it is cooked along foods like abalone or beef, it is fortified with minerals and proteins, turning into a great stamina health food.

Top producers of pine mushroom
Pine mushrooms are primarily picked in mountainous areas in the Taebaek Mountain Range and Sobaek Mountain Range. Those thickest in size are considered the best, and are picked in the county of Yangyang-gun in Gangwon-do. Next are those picked in the counties of Uljin-gun, Bonghwa-gun, and Cheongdo-gun in Gyeongsangbuk-do. Other well-known pine mushroom-producing regions include Inje-gun in Gangwon-do, the cities of Andong-si and Yeongju-si in Gyeongsangbuk-do, and Danyang-gun in Chungcheongbuk-do. Pine mushrooms can be kept for an extended period of time after they are harvested. These pine mushroom-producing areas also have many restaurants specializing in pine mushroom dishes.

Bonghwa Songi (Pine Mushroom) Festival
Yangyang Songi Festival
Uljin Geumgang Songi Festival
Yangyang Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Uljin Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Inje Culture & Tourism (Korean)
Bonghwa Culture & Tourism (Korean)
Cheongdo Culture & Tourism (Korean)

Persimmon (감): A sweet and healthy dessert

Persimmon is a major autumn fruit in Korea. Depending on the level of processing, it is called by different names: hongsi refers to persimmon ripe to a color of yellow-orange or dark red-orange with no astringent taste; gotgam is persimmon peeled and dried under the sun and the wind; and bansi is seedless persimmon. Persimmon is high in vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals. In Korea, a common saying is, “Just stand under a persimmon tree and you are sure to get healthy.” The fruit is particularly good for the skin and for getting over a hangover. The fruit is also highly effective for stopping diarrhea-related symptoms, so most advise against consuming persimmons in large quantities to prevent blockage.

Freshly picked persimmon can have an astringent flavor. But over time, it will ripen and become sweet, and its color will transition to a deep orange. This fruit is mostly eaten as is without cooking. Hongsi can be frozen and eaten in shaved form or like ice cream. It is also enjoyed as a jam or in a salad.

Top producers of persimmon

The nation’s largest production of persimmon comes from the city of Sangju-si in Gyeongsangbuk-do. In Waenam-myeon in Sangju-si, there is a gotgam village with 400 or so households dedicated to drying persimmon (into gotgam). Farmers dry persimmons from mid October to early November, and the sight of persimmons hanging to dry is quite impressive. Other well-known persimmon producing regions are Yeongdong-gun in Chungcheongbuk-do, Cheongdo-gun in Gyeongsangbuk-do, and Gimhae-si in Gyeongsangnam-do.

Yeongdong Dried Persimmons Festival
Jinyeong Sweet Persimmon Festival
Sangju Gamgoeul Story Festival
Sangju Culture & Tourism (Korean)
Gimhae Culture & Tourism (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Yeongdong Culture & Tourism (Korean)
Cheongdo Culture & Tourism (Korean)

There is also a variety of autumn seasonal foods like apple, pear, mussel, and sea cucumber. If it is difficult to visit fishing villages for seafood, visit the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market in Seoul or the Sorae Fish Market in Incheon.

Korea Tourism Organization Website
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Spanish, Russian)
☞ 1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

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